It’s no secret that the crossover market has been on fire lately, particularly the midsize and smaller options that seem to meet all the practical needs of Canadians from all walks of life. The market being so hot, everyone is getting in on the action, including Jaguar – now in their third year with their compact luxury crossover, the F-Pace. Aimed directly at high volume competitors such as the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, the F-Pace is a unique choice that draws on Jaguars sporting heritage to set it apart from the competition. The F-Pace comes in five different models and with three different engines, so you can option it just how you want it, but our tester this week is the most interesting to date; the 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S in all its supercharged glory.
On the outside the F-Pace draws heavily on the design language of the F-Type (reviewed here) sports car with wide rear hips, the signature Jaguar front grille and prominent leaping Jaguar logo on the rear hatch. The hood carries the big centre bulge, also reminiscent of the Jaguar’s sports cars before the F-Type, like the XK-series and the infamous XKE. Sitting in the driver’s seat and looking over the hood it’s easy to forget that you’re in a practical family hauler and not a low-slung roadster.
The most performance oriented “S” model gets a unique and more aggressive front and rear fascia, big “S” badging and prominent dual outlet exhaust. The tester is also finished in a polarizing Caesium Blue and sports the optional Black Pack which blacks out all the trim on the vehicle and compliments the black five spoke 20” optional ($1,020) rims. Of note, the exterior paint quality and overall finish is top notch, which is a treat to see. There may be millions of compact SUVs on the road, but there will be no mistaking the F-Pace for anything but a Jaguar.
Inside the F-Pace looks the part of a modern Jag; clean styling and plenty of little refinements. The seats in the S are heavily bolstered and available in a multitude of two-tone options over and above the standard black, including the Light Oyster and Black optioned on the tester, which looks stunning but was already showing dirt on frequent touch areas – probably not a great choice if you plan on hauling kids. The seats themselves are extremely comfortable and offer outstanding support when the driving gets a little spirited.
As for the rest of the interior, it all depends on your perspective; against the competition in the Compact Luxury SUV segment in the $50,000-$60,000 range, the F-Pace interior is on-par or better than its closest rivals. It’s when you start to option the F-Pace up into the $80,000 range when the interior starts to feel a bit underwhelming for the price point. Material quality is the biggest culprit; the leather on the centre sections of the seats has a plastic feel, and the lower portions of the door panels are hard plastic. On the plus side, the digital configurable instrument cluster is quite nice to look at and easy to use.
At the $50,250 cost of entry for a base F-Pace, this is acceptable, nice even, but at our as tested price of $83,872, it hurts. That’s the thing when there’s such a gap between the entry price and top tier within a vehicle range; the car is built to the lowest price point and upgraded from there, not the other way around, and items like dashboards and door panels are not always moved up along the way.
Of course, that hefty as tested price does buy you a lot of Jaguar and while the starting price of our F-Pace S is a more reasonable $68,500, it has over $12,000 worth of options on it. These upgrades include the Comfort & Convenience Pack ($2,040) which adds a cooling feature to the front seats and heats and electrifies the movement of the rear seats along, also allowing for gesture open/close of the rear hatch. The Driver Assist Pack ($3,320) adds the full list of electronic driving nannies, and my favorite, adaptive cruise control. A Technology Pack ($3,320) adds the HD virtual gauge cluster, navigation and upgraded Meridian sound. Those packages, plus a number of a-la-carte options push the price up.
Jaguar’s InControl Touch Pro system is another point of contention as it’s just not all that intuitive or responsive and actually can be very frustrating to work with, even after spending the last couple of weeks in Jaguars and getting used to the system. The menus are clunky, the system doesn’t always respond to touch, it can take minutes to boot up in the morning, and some high use functions such as controlling the heated seats require multiple touches. Thankfully, the new Range Rover Velar (reviewed here) gets the new InControl Touch Pro Duo system, which should trickle down into the F-Pace very quickly.
The good news is that all of the discretions disappear when you’re out on the open road in your F-Pace. I am usually not a fan of an SUV that tries to be sporty, because typically that means a harsh ride and noisy cabin to allow for mediocre sporty handling. That is not the case for the F-Pace S, which actually delivers on engaging and properly sporty characteristics while retaining a comfortable and quiet ride. It is very competent in the twisties and backroads, and more than enough fun to keep a smile on the face of the average enthusiast.
The well-sorted and refined chassis only gets better when it’s powered by the 380 horsepower supercharged 3.0L V6 that’s found in the S. It puts out 332 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500RPM and mated to the eight-speed ZF automatic, sprints the F-Pace to 100km/h in a very brisk 5.5 seconds. Throttle response is sharp, but the supercharger takes a bit to spool up, resulting in a bit of lag off the line, not hitting full torque output until a relatively high 4,500RPM. The whole process sounds phenomenal through those dual exhaust tips, and I bet the F-Pace S will catch more than a few unsuspecting sports car owners off guard.
The extra power of the S model is really what makes the F-Pace a great driving experience, and I am not sure that the standard four-cylinder 2.0L or diesel engines would inspire the same sense of enthusiasm. That said, this crossover is a great balance between performance and comfort, wrapped up in a solid and well-built chassis. The obvious capability of AWD also means it’s a sporty experience that can be enjoyed all year long.
Fuel economy out of the V6 is probably not the F-Pace’s strongest suit, but it’s very livable for an crossover, with my weekly average sitting at 12.1L/100km after a week worth of rush hour commuting. Jaguar does recommend premium fuel given that this is a supercharged engine, and that’s what our test took place on.
The 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S is a strong entry and worthy contender in the segment. The ‘S’ trim level really sets the crossover apart and brings to life the true intention of a luxury performance vehicle. An interior and infotainment refresh would really put the F-Pace at the top of the heap, but for now you’re trading off those discretions for what is one of the best driving and performing SUVs on the market.